Closed season: Zamboanga fishing group, DoLE coordinating for alternative livelihoods

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CANNERY WORKERS process sardines at Mega Fishing Corp. in Zamboanga City, in this Feb. 25, 2009 photo. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources attributes larger sardine catches in the last three years to the regular closed season. — AFP

By Albert F. Arcilla, Correspondent

ZAMBOANGA CITY — The canning industry here is now closely coordinating with the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) for possible alternative livelihoods to the roughly 30,000 workers who will be affected by the implementation of the three-month closed fishing season at the Zamboanga Peninsula beginning Dec. 1.

“We, in the industry, coordinated with DoLE to address the concerns of the affected workers for alternative livelihood,” Roberto A. Baylosis, executive vice- president of the Southern Philippines Deep Sea Fishing Association (SOPHIL) said in an e-mail interview with BusinessWorld.

Mr. Baylosis said the 30,000 affected workers include those who are directly and indirectly related to the industry, such as fishing crew members, cannery workers, dock handlers and those in allied sectors.

Earlier, the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) issued a statement calling on DoLE to provide safety nets to “some 50,000 fishermen and canning workers” who will be out of work during the closed season, which has been implemented annually since 2011.

“Fishermen and canning workers are one of the very vulnerable workers nowadays because of recurring climate change effects and high demand for fish and fish products,” said Alan Tanjusay, ALU-TUCP spokesperson.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) jointly issued Administrative Order No. 1 series of 2011 (JAO-01s2011) establishing a conservation area in the Zamboanga Peninsula where a closed fishing season will be implemented to allow sardines and other species to spawn and give time to the juveniles to grow.

The no-fishing zone covers an area of 13,987 square kilometers within the East Sulu Sea, Basilan Strait, and Sibuguey Bay.

“It is high time to review the ban and infuse it with an automatic support mechanism to assuage workers and fishermen from the long period of economic shock caused by the commercial fishing ban not only in the Zamboanga region but in other regions as well,” Mr. Tanjusay said.

Mr. Baylosis, meanwhile, said the closed-fishing season is not expected to affect the price of sardines in the market.

“This practice has been observed since the year 2011 and did not have the significant effect on the prices because the favorable effect resulted to the abundance of the species during fishing season, allowing canners to produce sufficient supply to cover during closed fishing,” he said.

Similar closed-fishing seasons are implemented in other parts of the country.